Unpacking the US Democratic Candidates Content

Who’s Winning The Digital Democratic Race?

The Democratic Race is hotting up as we head towards the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination. Although we have no political persuasion given we’re in Australia, we think the race on both sides is pretty interesting. We found Digital experiences provided by candidates and their staff have a material impact on their popularity and positioning amongst their peers, conversely these digital experiences also provide a reaction to the current polling position. We learnt from the 2008 Obama campaign, just how important digital experiences and optimisation is to campaign strategy. So today we’re using CompeteShark to take a closer look at the Democratic candidates. The correlation between poll performance and digital experience is very interesting, lets unpack it.

CompeteShark Dashboard

CompeteShark Dashboard

The Landscape

Firstly, the landscape in general. Normally we work with bounce rates, conversion numbers or website traffic but polls are just as good to use as a market indicator. In fact they’re pretty accurate across the entire landscape, because well, they poll the entire landscape. As you can see from the image below, most candidate popularity has remained constant until the end of July. Clinton takes a dive and Sanders lifts considerably. O’Malley, Chaffee and Webb remain fairly constant. We didn’t include Biden in our sample since Biden is yet to confirm his bid and therefore has no digital presence. Given the current state of polling, Clinton and Sanders are leading the race.
poll

Courtesy: Real Clear Politics

The Candidates – their websites & their content

Taking a look at the bottom end of the race, O’Malley (martinomalley.com), Chaffee (chafee2016.com) and Webb (webb2016.com). All three appear to spend little time and money on keeping their primary campaign websites up to date. We estimate that although the initial outlay to build their websites may have been moderate, we expect that there is very little human interaction, no optimisation and the overall campaign spend on the digital experience is low. We know this because of the changes being made to site (or lack thereof).

LINCOLN CHAFEE –  chafee2016.com

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The Chaffee camp made no major changes or optimizations to their website since we started watching them in early august. Our rating of LOW is based upon this fact. Given nothing is dynamic, we expect poor return traffic and minimal user engagement. Polling clearly reflects that Chaffee is on the bottom of the scale.

JIM WEBB –  webb2016.com

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“Campaign with Jim” has been the catch cry of the Webb digital campaign for the last month, unfortunately it hasn’t changed. Neither has much of the website. Webb does make an effort to change news content on the site around once per week, however this is reminiscent of the web circa in the early 2000’s and doesn’t cut it for return visits or user engagement. Again polling is reflective of this with Webb slightly above Chaffee, but still performing poorly overall.
Courtesy webb2016.com

Courtesy webb2016.com

MARTIN O’MALLEY – martinomalley.com

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O’Malley make a LOT of changes to their website, unfortunately. most of these changes are tweets from O’Malley or Staff. While we think having dynamic content such as tweets are dynamic and engaging, they should form part of an overall content strategy. We’ve given O’Malley a medium rating because they’ve also coupled these tweets with rotating tiles that align with current events, speeches and relevant campaign policies as well as rotating a video at least once a week that matches O’Malley’s campaign journey. This appears to be a great, low cost approach to keeping visitors engaged and ensuring content matches what visitors are looking for (and expecting to see).
Courtesy martinomalley.com

Courtesy martinomalley.com

Courtesy martinomalley.com

Courtesy martinomalley.com

The front runners take a more serious approach to optimization and dynamic content. We explore both Sanders and Clinton. Clinton is the clear front runner with Sanders playing catchup after the recent surge in polling.

BERNIE SANDERS – berniesanders.com

 
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Sanders has progressively improved in polling over the last month. Since, the improvement, the Sanders camp has started spending more time, effort and money on keeping their digital presence relevant and dynamic. Clearly the up tick in polls has increased the traffic coming to berniesanders.com, the campaign team seem to have reacted to this increase with relevant changes that match the position of the Sanders campaign. In fact messaging has been the most interesting example of strategic content, in the last week, as the number of media mentions comparing Sanders to Clinton and has risen (let’s use Google Search Trends as a good indicator of this):
Courtesy Google Trends

Courtesy Google Trends

The Sanders camp, strategically placed Sanders versus Clinton content as their primary news feed item. This is a great move, indicating that Sanders is clearly placing himself as a front runner with Clinton in the race and further distancing himself from the bottom end of the candidature.
clinton

Courtesy berniesanders.com

 

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Sanders’ team has also made an effort to dynamically change calls to action based on current events. This shows there are real people behind the scenes, generating content that is relevant and contextual to current events. This call to action is high on the page, very clear and unlike other candidates, does not take focus away from the page.

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Courtesy berniesanders.com

News content matches this earlier call to action perfectly. A watch live call to action also in-forces the earlier messaging.

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Courtesy berniesanders.com

Courtesy berniesanders.com

HILLARY CLINTON –  hillaryclinton.com

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The clinton digital experience relies on two dynamic elements that encourage visitors to engage with the brand and and help to keep content relevant. The primary optimization mechanism used is a glaring red call to action on some visits. While it appears the Clinton team do have Optimizely embedded for optimization, we haven’t seen any active experiments recently. A big opportunity is missed here to A/B test some of the messaging and Calls to Action to learn what techniques the Clinton team could use to optimize conversions.
Courtesy hillaryclinton.com

Courtesy hillaryclinton.com

Secondly a news feed is used to keep the website content dynamic, however the messaging is more in line with policy as opposed to aligning with current newsworthy events.

Courtesy hillaryclinton.com

Courtesy hillaryclinton.com

Conclusion

We’re giving the nod to Sanders for this round. The content strategy being exhibited is exploiting current media and is reflective of the content visitors are expecting. As a candidate that has clearly had less media attention to date than the front runner Clinton, the Sanders team are doing a good job of exposing and leveraging the increased media attention, especially in the past week.
Look out for our instalment next week as we examine the Republican race.
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Co-founder of CompeteShark and passionate about making sense of competitive environments. Missed intel on competitor moves one too many times so decided to build a solution. Spends a lot of time writing code behind the scenes but writes the odd blog post when CompeteShark unearths something interesting.